Archive for April 18th, 2008

Please Read this and Pass It On

Sharon April 18th, 2008


I think Greenpa may actually have come up with a viable way to make political change on the food crisis.  This is important. 


The Lowly Potato and the Power of Vegeculture

Sharon April 18th, 2008

Passover begins tomorrow evening, and training it down to NYC for a family seder.  Expect the blog to be quiet for a bit.  But I didn’t want to leave you all on the methane note ;-) – we all need a happy thought now and again.

 My happy thought is…potatoes.  Does that sound strange?  If so, take a look at this article about the growing hope that potatoes represent in the world food crisis.  We have relied so heavily on seed crops that we’ve missed many of the possibilities of roots.

 I’ve written about this more extensively in an article about Vegeculture - that is, the use of root crops as staple foods.  I believe that more and more of us, who do not feel we can produce our own wheat, will transition our diets towards small scale production of root crops – potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, cassava, manioc, taro, beets….  In a world where food grains are increasingly scarce, our ability to rely on our own local, staple vegetable crops may be essential. 

It is also worth noting that a transition to root crops represents a deeper shift – because potatoes are higher yielding than grains, we are making our first shift to an agriculture that emphasizes productivity of land, rather than productivity of people – that is, the realization is coming that we have no choice but to make the best possible use of the land we have.  It is a slow process, but I see new awareness of root agriculture as an early step.

 At Passover, we are prohibited from owning or profiting from grains – certainly wheat, and many Jews also forego rice, corn and other crops.  That leaves matzah (made from wheat in a particular way), but also potatoes.  Many of the traditional foods of the Passover Table derive from potatoes, or potato starch.  For 8 days, potatoes mostly substitute for an American diet that otherwise relies far more heavily on wheat, corn and rice. 

Which raises the question of how we regard this shift.  Historically, while Passover has its pleasures, everyone is waiting anxiously for bread at the end.  It is traditional to complain a bit about the foods of Passover.  I wonder what it would be like if, instead of dreaming of bread, we could delight in the season of potatoes and other roots.  That is our goal this year – to enjoy this time of vegeculture.

A few years ago, I dumped about half an inch of compost on a chunk of my gravel driveway, laid potato pieces down, and covered them with old hay that had been rained on.  I produced a fairly solid yield of healthy, beautiful potatoes – on my driveway.  Potatoes are indeed a happy thought.